Photos courtesy NHRA

NHRA stunner: U.S. Army to end sponsorship of Don Schumacher Racing, NHRA after this season

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In a stunning announcement, the National Hot Rod Association and Don Schumacher Racing revealed Sunday that the U.S. Army, which has been one of the sport’s largest and most high-profile primary sponsors for nearly 20 years, will end its relationship with both the sport and team after this season.

The Army has been primary sponsor for eight-time Top Fuel champ Tony Schumacher for nearly two decades, co-primary sponsor on Antron Brown’s Top Fuel dragster for nearly a decade, and became a part-time primary sponsor this season for Top Fuel driver Leah Pritchett.

All three drivers race for DSR.

Here’s the official announcement:

U.S. ARMY REDIRECTING ITS MARKETING EFFORTS FOR 2019
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (July 8, 2018) – The U.S. Army has decided not to renew its sponsorship with Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) and the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) due to a reallocation of its marketing budget. DSR is actively pursuing a strong brand to partner with the team and its roster of sponsors and personalities who have contributed to 325 NHRA national event titles and 16 championships.
“The U.S. Army has been a great partner of Don Schumacher Racing for nearly two decades,” said team owner Don Schumacher. “It has been a mutually beneficial relationship with the U.S. Army instilling the mental, physical and emotional strength of the U.S. Army Soldier in all of us. We remain extremely proud of our representation of the U.S. Army and its brave Soldiers who are 100 percent committed to our country. We will continue to activate on behalf of the U.S. Army for the remainder of 2018 while showcasing our acumen to future partners looking to inject their brand with the power and precision that has earned DSR more than 320 wins and 16 championships.”
“The U.S. Army has been an incredibly loyal and longtime supporter of NHRA Championship Drag Racing and we are sad to see them go, especially during a time in which NHRA is experiencing so much success,” said NHRA president Glen Cromwell. “One of the most significant elements of our partnership with the U.S. Army has been its sponsorship of NHRA’s Youth and Education Services program, which hosts approximately 30,000 high school students each year across the country and will continue to do so. Not only does this program serve our communities by inspiring students to pursue STEM-related career opportunities, but it also acts as a powerful recruiting tool for vocational education programs.
“The NHRA Mello Yello Series reaches millions of fans each year at its 24 national events which are each broadcast on FOX Sports. We’ve had seven sellout days so far this season and all of our metrics are up. We are excited about NHRA’s future and look forward to welcoming new partners to our sport.”
The U.S. Army’s current commitments will remain through 2018.

Don’t know the Rolex 24? You should. Here’s why.

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Hello, America. It’s time to go racing again.

Yes, Supercross is now three weeks into its season, and the Chili Bowl Nationals is now effectively the Christopher Bell Invitational after the young NASCAR star won his 3rd consecutive Golden Driller last weekend.

But the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway is the first marquee event on the American racing calendar – an event that just happens to have international prestige.

It’s also the start of Daytona Speedweeks, which culminates with NASCAR’s Daytona 500 on Feb. 17. But this is no mere opening act just warming up the crowd for the headliner.

In case you’re new to this event, here are a few reasons why it stands out:

Twice around the clock: Are you the kind of person that appreciates a challenge? Well, challenges don’t get much bigger in motorsports than a 24-hour endurance race where drivers, crews, machines, and strategies must work together flawlessly. For those behind the wheel in the Rolex 24, the obstacles are numerous: Punishing G-forces, extreme mental focus, lack of sleep, and staying on top of hydration and nutrition.

Star power: Speaking of those behind the wheel, the Rolex 24 traditionally draws top drivers from other disciplines such as IndyCar, Formula 1 and NASCAR to join sports car regulars from North America and around the world. As a result, the winners’ list is a Who’s Who of Motorsports.

This year’s field includes a clutch of NTT IndyCar Series drivers, highlighted by 5-time series champion and past Rolex 24 winner Scott Dixon. But pre-race buzz has centered on two particular interlopers: Alex Zanardi, the former CART champion making his first North American start since losing his legs in a 2001 crash, and Fernando Alonso, the two-time F1 champion looking to add another endurance triumph alongside his win with Toyota in last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Cool cars: If you’re a gearhead, the Rolex 24 is a 200-mile-per-hour candy store. Across the four separate classes of competition, 13 of the world’s premier car manufacturers are represented.

The majority of those manufacturers are found in the Grand Touring classes that feature vehicles based on road-going production models. Chevy and Ford’s eternal rivalry rages on in the factory-backed GT Le Mans, but the class also boasts efforts from BMW, Porsche, and Ferrari. It’s even more diverse in the pro-am GT Daytona, where Porsche is joined by Audi, Lamborghini, Lexus and Mercedes.

As for the exotic, purpose-built Daytona Prototypes, they are powered by engines from Cadillac, Acura, Mazda and Nissan.

Nifty fifty: This year’s Rolex 24 begins the 50th anniversary season for IMSA, the sanctioning body for North American sports car racing. A select group of teams will mark the occasion at the Rolex 24 by running historic IMSA paint schemes on their machines. You may not be familiar with these looks, but it’s worth discovering the history behind them.

Here’s an example. The Starworks Motorsports team (GT Daytona) will carry a scheme based on Audi of America’s 90 Quattro from the 1989 IMSA GTO season. Boasting sports car legends Hurley Haywood and Hans-Joachim Stuck in the driver lineup, the 90 Quattro captured 7 GTO wins that season.

Audi’s performance led one competitor to create a “no passing” sticker with Stuck’s face on it. Stuck’s response: A doll fixed to his car’s rear window that dropped its pants to moon anyone Stuck put behind him.

Status symbol: Last but not least, the Rolex 24 has a unique prize – a trophy you can wear.

Winners get a standard cup, but what they’re really after are the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona watches, which include a special engraving to commemorate their victory. A standard version of this watch retails for tens of thousands of dollars, but you can’t put a price on the ones awarded at the Rolex 24.

This year’s grand marshal, 5-time Rolex 24 winner Scott Pruett, sums it up as “the ultimate reward.”

“To be presented a watch engraved with the word ‘Winner’ after 24 hours of intense racing is a moment that lives with you forever,” he added. “Your Rolex is a constant reminder of the perseverance and hard work that goes into succeeding at the highest level.”